More than 100 take Polar Bear Plunge

January 01, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WILLIAMSPORT -- Some lasted only a few seconds.

Others took the time to splash a bit before running back to shore.

But Ed Enamait was the last one out of the Potomac River at River Bottom Park in Williamsport on Thursday after the annual Polar Bear Plunge.

While others screamed and ran for dry land, their towels and hot chocolate, Enamait, of Falling Waters, W.Va., remained in the Potomac, paddling in a lazy backstroke toward the boat ramp.

The Polar Bear Plunge is a fundraiser for the Humane Society of Washington County, and spokeswoman Katherine Cooker said that about $6,000 was raised last year.


At least 100 people went into the water Thursday in what Cooker said was at least the 15th year the event has taken place.

Enamait has participated in many plunges and said it's a nice way to start the year. Thursday's water, which he estimated to be about 37 degrees, actually was warmer than some years, he said.

"One year, we jumped through the ice," Enamait said.

Brent Banas, 34, and his brother, Christopher Banas, 20, both of Hagerstown, were part of a group taking the plunge for the first time Thursday in memory of their friend, Erik Meinelschmidt, who died in May. Meinelschmidt, who coached the swim team at St. Maria Goretti High School, always wanted to participate in the Polar Bear Plunge, but never did, Brent said.

Ryan Suter, 28, of Clear Spring, and Mike Zaffaroni also were part of the group.

Suter said the cold water was a "shock," but that they had a good time.

On New Year's Eve, Lauren Clark, 19, of Hagerstown, and several of her friends from the University of Maryland at Baltimore County were celebrating when they decided that participating in the Polar Bear Plunge would be fun.

"Showed them a little of how we do it in (Williamsport)," Clark said.

Her friend, Madeline Smith, 19, of Ellicott City, Md., said her feet were numb, and the boat ramp where they stood before running into the water was covered in ice. They stayed in the water for maybe 30 seconds, they said.

"We stayed in long enough to splash each other," Clark said.

Madi Renn, 9, of Williamsport, was the day's youngest plunger. She wanted to participate last year, but an ear infection kept her on the sidelines as she watched her father, Mike Renn, and her brother, Connor Renn, 12, go into the water.

Feeling better this year, Madi was alongside them, and she received a prize for being the youngest participant.

"It was fun," she said.

George Baker, 77, of Greencastle, Pa., was the oldest person to register for the plunge.

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